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Chambers, Frank M.. Three Troubadour Poems with Historical Overtones . "Speculum", 54/1 (1979), pp. 42-54.





Southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed significant changes in daily life: for example, the increasing emancipation of towns from feudal control and the rise of the bourgeoisie. It was the scene of numerous territorial struggles among local lords, such as the vigorously pressed claims of the dukes of Aquitaine and their successors, the royal house of England, to Toulouse and other neighboring domains. It was also invaded from the outside, both by force and by marriage: Barcelona and Aragon acquired considerable footholds in Provence, Montpellier, and elsewhere. Furthermore, the South participated significantly in the Crusades to the Holy Land. Of much greater consequence, however, was its involvement in the “Albigensian Crusade”; this brutal war led to the extermination of the Cathars scattered over the region, the establishment of the Inquisition, the end of the house of Toulouse, the devastation of vast areas and important cities.

One might expect to find these events mirrored in the poems of the troubadours, who lived at this time and in this part of France; and they do have some place there. Naturally, history would be at best incidental in the amorous canso, the major genre of Old Provençal poetry, and the one which has influenced most profoundly the subsequent course of European literature; but several less highly regarded forms of troubadour verse come closer to the economic, social, and political aspects of medieval life. Among these are the planh or funeral lament, the tenso or poetic debate, the all-purpose cobla consisting of a single stanza, and the sirventes, which often satirizes contemporary morals, heaps abuse on some individual, or voices the author’s reactions to what is going on in the world around him. The present article contains three such poems, never before critically edited, which possess substantial historical as well as literary interest.








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